09/24/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Fighting between government and rebel forces kills three civilians, wounds another two

by Francis Khoo Thwe
A source tells AsiaNews that 22 elderly and disabled civilians are trapped in their homes amid fighting in Mansi, a village in Banmaw district. So far, more than 250 people have been evacuated. Despite government statements, the prospects for a peace deal remain distant.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – “Three civilians died and two others were injured” yesterday afternoon in "heavy fighting” between government troops and Kachin rebels in Maing Hkaun village, Mansi township, in Banmaw district, a Catholic source told AsiaNews.

“For the past five days,” he said, “the local Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Team in Banmaw has been trying to bring aid to residents and coordinate the evacuation of civilians with the help of Christian groups and international NGOs. So far, more than 250 civilians have been evacuated from the conflict zone.”

Government forces and the Kachin Independence Army have been fighting for the past four years. More recently, government troops have been pouring in with greater firepower to crush rebel resistance.

A group of activists and experts reached the combat area and heard civilians report the ongoing fighting. As a result, the situation in the area has become unbearable. The latest information suggests that 22 elderly and disabled civilians are trapped in their homes in Mansi amid the fighting. 

The latest round of fighting broke out last Saturday, when government troops tried to take pictures of KIA outposts in Laika-Zukja village, locals said.

"Because all the people fled for their lives in a panic, the sick, elderly and disabled persons were left in their homes,” said Naw Mai, who is in charge of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in MengKaung village, told The Irrawaddy.

Despite negotiations to reach the area and help the civilians, no tangible results have been achieved.

Meanwhile, intense negotiations for a comprehensive peace accord are underway between the government and representatives of ethnic minorities.

Myanmar leaders, especially President Thein Sein, would like to seal a deal before upcoming elections (8 November). A ceasefire could be useful in the campaign.

However, renewed tensions "are not likely to allow the implementation of a general peace plan,” sources told AsiaNews. “At best, limited deals can be worked out with some factions or groups."

Myanmar is home to more than 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to live in peace, in particular with the majority Burmese-dominated central government.

In the past, the military junta used an iron fist against the more rebellious minorities, like the Kachin, whose state is located on the border with China, and ethnic Kokang in Shan state, where the president declared a state of emergency.

After 17 years of relative calm, fighting broke out again in Kachin State in June 2011. Since then, dozens of civilians have been killed and at least 200,000 people have been displaced.

In August 2014, Myanmar’s Catholic bishops made a plea for peace and a lasting solution to the conflict.

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